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Name: People v. Calvin
Case #: A111633
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/11/2008
Summary

The trial court’s finding that prospective jurors were not excused for a discriminatory purpose was supported by substantial evidence. At trial, defense counsel made a Batson/Wheeler challenge based on the fact that the prosecutor excused four out of six African-American potential jurors. The judge found a prima facie case of discrimination had been made, and asked the prosecutor to justify the challenges. As to two of the jurors, the prosecutor explained they were removed because they expressed skepticism that the criminal justice system does not treat poor and wealthy people equally, and that is also is not fair to Blacks at times. The prosecutor’s proffered reason for removing the other two jurors was that they both expressed reservations about the credibility of drug users, and one of the primary witnesses at trial had used marijuana on the date of the crime. The court the found the challenges had been based on non-discriminatory reasons and denied the motion. On appeal, defendant argued that since such attitudes about the criminal justice system are so prevalent among Blacks, it was not a race-neutral reason because it constitutes a surrogate for race. Accepting the proposition for the sake of argument, the appellate court still found that fact alone did not mean the challenges failed the test for race-neutrality. The court found the prosecutor in this case discharged the jurors on the basis of their individual responses and personal experiences. Had the prosecutor dismissed these jurors based on his assumptions about their attitudes, he would have shown group bias. But, here the skeptical views for which he challenged the jurors were based on their expressed views. Just because similar attitudes are held by many members of the same group does not convert the reason into an intentional race-based challenge.